Peter Hoskin

PMQs live blog | 15 July 2009

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Stay tuned for live coverage of PMQs from 1200.

1202: And we're off.  John Maples asks Brown to clarify our objectives in Afghanistan.  Brown says that "since 2001, our main objective has been to stop terrorism".

1204: In response to a question from Anne Begg, Brown says he is "committed to increasing the diversity of Pariament".

1205: Cameron now.  He asks whether to maintain support for the Afghanistan mission, we've got to "make more visible progress".  Brown repeats his point about "tackling terrorism," and that the mission also aims to bring "social and economic development" in the country.  He adds that the Government will review "equipment and resources" after the Afghan elections.

1208: Now Cameron pushes on the "insufficient" number of helicopters in Afghanistan, drawing an unfavourable comparison between the (greater) proportion of American helicopters and the number of British helicopters.  Brown's response, that old favourite: "We're doing everything we can."

1210: Brown: "We have a helicopter Bugdet over the next three(?) years, that will be £6 billion, that will improve helicopters for the future."  He adds that "While the deaths have been sad, they are not to do with helicopters."

1212: Cameron says that Brown can't deny that the lack of helicopters is a problem.  He supports the claim with quote from military figures, including Lord Guthrie.

1213: Brown reels off helicopter production statistics, before claiming he's received assurances that the troops "have the equipment they need".  Hm.  He says that what's really needed are more Afghan troops.

1215: Incisive stuff from Cameron: "We have 500 helicopters as a country, and we only have 30 in [Afghanistan]".

1217: Brown says that helicopters "need to be adapted to operate in Afghanistan".  To which, I suspect, most people will think: But does it take 8 years to adapt them?  He then continues - disgracefully, in my view - that this "shouldn't be an issue for cross-party disagreement".

1218: Shameless stuff from Brown, in reponse to Cameron: "I hoped that this debate would have remained free from party politics."

1219: Brown: "We are doing everything we can..."

1220: Woah. Fiery stuff from Clegg.  He says that people "want change, but they're watching a Prime Minister doing nothing."  He even says that Brown is "fiddling the figures."

1221: Brown: "The opposition parties have no policies for reducing unemployment."

1222: Clegg: "Who does the PM think he's kidding?"  This is getting quite heated.

1223: Brown: "I think the leaders of the opposition parties should go away for the summer and think why they have no policies for the recession."  Erm, maybe Brown should go away and think why he's way, way behind in the polls...

1224: Back bench questions now.

1227: Questions on poverty, regions and autism care.

1228: Another question on helicopters.  Brown gets quite flustered, and repeats the points he made to Cameron.  "We're doing everything we can..."

1232: Brown: "Defence spending has continued to rise in real terms, in contrast to the last years of the Conservative government."

1232: And that's it.

VERDICT: A solid and - dare I say it? - statesmanlike performance from Cameron today.  His questions on equipping our troops in Afghanistan were sensible, measured, and left Brown floundering.  Throw in a surprisingly acerbic performance from Nick Clegg, and it was a pretty dismal session for the PM.